Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled Canada’s “first round” of economic sanctions against Russia for its recognition of independence of two non-government controlled Eastern Ukraine regions and the ordering of troops there.
Trudeau said the government is banning Canadians from all financial dealings with the “so-called independent states” of Donetsk and Luhansk and will sanction members of the Russian parliament who voted in favour of declaring the regions as independent.
“Russia’s brazen provocations are a threat to security and peace in the world,” the prime minister said during a late afternoon news briefing on Parliament Hill.
The government has also approved a deployment of up to 460 Canadian Armed Forces troops to Latvia as part of Operation Reassurance to “reinforce” Canada’s commitment to NATO.
“This recognition is a violation of Russia’s obligation under international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Canada also denounces Russian military actions, including orders to move into Ukraine which is a clear incursion of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Trudeau said.
“Make no mistake, this is a further invasion of a sovereign state and it is completely unacceptable.”
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees ordering troops into the newly recognised regions under the premise of “peacekeeping”.
Russian lawmakers and members of the Federation Council also gave Putin permission to use military force outside of the country in a unanimous vote on Tuesday, formalising a military deployment.
These moves have prompted world leaders to announce a swath of sanctions against Russia.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sanctions on five Russian banks as well as three wealthy individuals with close ties to Putin.
Meanwhile, Germany said it would freeze the certification of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline project that was designed to double the flow of Russian gas direct to Germany.
US President Joe Biden said the White House will target two financial institutions, VEB – Russia’s state development corporation – and its military bank, as well as Russian sovereign debt.
“That means we’ve cut of Russia’s government from Western financing. It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade its new debt on our markets or European markets either,” he said.
Sanctions against Russia’s “elites and their family members” will be announced on Wednesday.
The Canadian government will also ban Canadians from purchasing Russian sovereign debt and will impose sanctions on two state-backed Russian banks.
These measures will remain in place until the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine is restored, the prime minister said.
“It is not too late for Russia to seek a diplomatic resolution and re-establish a pathway to peace. But it is also clear that Russian actions violate international law and threaten international peace and security,” he said.
For weeks the world has braced for an imminent Russian attack in Ukraine as Putin gradually amassed approximately 150,000 soldiers along various sections of the border.
The Canadian government has been steadfast in its support of Ukraine, sending military equipment, providing loans to mitigate financial unsteadiness amid the tensions, and deploying more troops under Operation UNIFIER to train Ukrainian armed forces and the national guard.
Defence Minister Anita Anand confirmed on Tuesday that a second shipment of lethal aid has been sent.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said that should Russia escalate their tactics, Canada will be prepared to retaliate.
“We are prepared to target even more of Russia’s financial sector and oligarchy and we’re ready to make significant announcements related to Canadian exports to Russia,” she said during the press conference.
“Let us be clear, the invasion has started,” Joly said. “Our response begins today.”“Just as Russia has prepared for this day, so have we,” Joly said. “Canada and its partners have been clear — the actions of the Russian regime will be met with severe consequences.”
Joly said the actions — “just the beginning” — will make it illegal for Canadians to fund Russia, directly or indirectly. “We are prepared to target even more of Russia’s financial sector and oligarchs.”
The economic costs will be severe, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland warned.
“Our quarrel is not with the Russian people,” she said. “It is with President Vladimir Putin and those around him who are making the choice to threaten a sovereign democracy with subjugation.”
“MEASURES NOT ENOUGH”: Former Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk weighed in on the news, telling CTV News Channel’s Power Play that while Canada’s announcement is respectable and aligns well with its allies, it may not be enough to deter Putin from further advancement.
“I think there’s hope that they might cool President Putin’s ardour but he seems so kind of messianically driven by a kind of imperial restoration idea that I’m not sure this first tranche will do the trick,” he said.
Former NATO commander David Fraser added that while the troop deployment addition is “thankful,” it’s unlikely to be impactful amid this specific escalating conflict.
“I think it’s more tokenism than anything else because it’s going to arrive too late…we’ve been watching this for years and we’ve come to this conflict too little too late,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the United States, United Kingdom and Germany announced sanctions targeting Russian banks and called off the planned opening of a natural gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany.
Notably, in March 2014, Russia invaded and then annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. In April pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region declared independence. The war continued in the eastern Ukrainian region and then spread westwards. Roughly 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians eventually died in the conflict.
In April 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian, was elected by a large majority as President of Ukraine on a promise to restore Donbas to the country. The crisis deepened in January 2021, when Zelensky appealed US President Biden to let Ukraine enter NATO. In the spring of 2021, Russia started massing troops near Ukraine’s borders in what it said were training exercises.